November 27, 2023

CILKA’S JOURNEY: A NOVEL by Heather Morris

Publication Date: October 1, 2019

Print Length: 352 pages

Previous Author Publications:

The Tattooist of Auschwitz: A Novel (2018)

Three Sisters: A Novel (2021)

Sisters under the Rising Sun: A Novel (2023)

SYNOPSIS

As a sequel to her debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris recounts the story of Cilka Klein, a brave young woman from Czechoslovakia who survived Auschwitz only to be later sentenced to a fifteen-year prison term in a Siberian labor camp.

Cilka was only sixteen in 1942 when the Nazis sent her to Auschwitz. When a German Commandant became attracted to her beauty, Cilka was forced to make tough moral choices to survive. After the Soviets liberated the camp inmates in 1944, they accused Cilka of being a collaborator and sent her to Vorkuta in Siberia where she used her grit and determination to stay alive until she was released in 1953.

While much has been written about the brutality of the Nazi concentration camps, less is known about the equally barbarous conditions in the postwar Soviet prison system. Relying on survivor accounts from Auschwitz and the Soviet gulags, Morris chronicles the resilience of the women prisoners who struggled to hope for the future while they were abused, exploited, and overworked within a labor camp where they had no legal protections.

REVIEWS AND AUTHOR INFORMATION

Rheins, Carl, “Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris,” Jewish Book Council, May 7, 2020. https://www.jewishbookcouncil.org/book/cilkas-journey

Clift, Elayne, “Cilka’s Journey: A Novel,” New York Journal of Books, October 1, 2019. https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/cilkas-journey-novel

Xenos, Natalie, “Book Review: Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris.” Culturefly, December 30, 2019. https://culturefly.co.uk/book-review-cilkas-journey-by-heather-morris/

Canfield, David, “Tattooist of Auschwitz author Heather Morris on why it’s time for Cilka’s Journey.” Entertainment. April 16, 2019. https://ew.com/author-interviews/2019/04/16/tattooist-of-auschwitz-sequel-cilkas-journey-preview/

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • According to Lale Sokolove (whose story was told in The Tattooist of Auschwitz), Cilka Klein was the bravest person he ever met. How did Cilka show her bravery? In addition to saving herself, how did Cilka help others to survive?

  • What does Cilka’s story reveal about the hardships women prisoners faced within the German and the Soviet prison camps? Given the abuses they suffered, what strategies did they employ to stay resilient?

  • Cilka was released from a Soviet labor camp in 1953 well after World War II ended. What does her story reveal about the injustices within the Soviet gulag system?

  • Morris has said, “the challenge of working with history is to find the core of what was true and the spirit of those who lived then.” In narrating Cilka’s Journey, how well was Morris able to achieve her story-telling goals?

Leave A Comment

Every month I offer a Book Club suggestion that highlights authors who write about their family history and explore themes of identity.
If you have books you would like to recommend, contact me at: kaia@kaiagallagher.com


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